Dmitrii UsyninWhy did you choose Imperial and the Department of Computing?

When I was at school I really enjoyed maths and cryptography, so that was the start of my interest in computing, maths and cybersecurity. Initially, I found it really difficult to decide if I want to do straight computer science at imperial or take a JMC offer I had from Edinburgh instead. Then I went to DoC open day and decided that Imperial is where I’ll enjoy it more: location, social life, courses on offer in the final two years and a compulsory industrial placement, which meant that I would definitely have work experience by the time I graduate all played their role. In terms of why I chose Imperial as a university, I also knew that I wanted to join Imperial Boat Club way back in 6th form. I guess that also had its effect.

How was your experience in your Industrial Placement?

My placement was a software engineering role at HSBC. I found it very challenging, as I was essentially the only “tech” person on my team. So I didn’t have anyone who could help me out with the problems I had. This became especially problematic, as all of my projects were web-related and there is no official front end teaching in DoC, so I had to teach myself how Angular works (as well as the front end in general) in the space of two weeks during placement. Challenging? Oh yeah. Helpful? Extra yeah, as I learnt a new language, a new framework and practically an entirely new technology during that period. So overall really useful experience that could have been a lot less stressful.

How supported do you feel in the Department of Computing and the college about engaging with Industry? 

I believe that DoC provides you with a lot of opportunities to get involved starting with regular newsletters with opportunities that DoC corporate partners offer and finishing with on-campus events organized by these sponsors where you can talk to engineers and recruiters directly, making it easy to get some industry contacts early on in your career.

What are your career plans?

I really want to do a PhD in Data Protection and Privacy Engineering, but I didn’t manage to get a place this year. So one or two years in Software Engineering and then back to applications. Ideally in some company that works with privacy. 

Which courses have you chosen to specialize in and why?

Well, I knew at the start of my first year that hackers are cool. I wasn’t sure what a hacker was, but I knew they were cool. And by definition so was computer security. And I tried to do all courses that were on offer starting with Networks in 2nd year, moving then to Web Security in year 3 and all the way to Privacy Engineering and Advanced security in year 4. Wish there were more actually, as this is a very popular area that I feel is underrepresented. Overall I found these to be the most enjoyable courses I took over the 4 years.

Looking back, what's one thing that you may have done differently if you had known?

I really underestimated how difficult practicals can be if you ignore the optional sessions. I didn’t go to many tutorials and lab sessions in year 1 and it has hit me hard at Lexis tests and at Christmas progress tests. Please don’t miss tutorials early on, they are very helpful. The learning curve is really steep and it’s incredibly easy to miss the point of no return and end up being far behind.

What is your best memory of your time at Imperial?

This is a difficult one, I will probably have to specify a few different ones. In terms of my studies, it’s the C project in the first year. We wrote a neural network for card games without really knowing C or being proficient in neural networks, this has really helped me in my studies and applications later on. In terms of my time outside of studies, it’s probably rowing at BUCS and getting into top-12 men’s intermediate 8s as a 3rd boat, getting the same time as Oxford Brookes. If you know how good they are, you will understand.

What are you working on in your Individual project?

As I’m really interested in privacy engineering, my project is also related to the same field. I’m working on privacy-preserving machine learning in a medical domain. Don’t be fooled: there is a lot more of “privacy-preserving“ than there is of “medical domain”. I am particularly interested in what methods of collaborative learning are available to the parties who wish to train a joint model without revealing their data to each other and what are the privacy implications of that. Most of my project is about what attacks can be performed under which threat models and how they are applicable (or not so applicable) to machine learning on medical images.

What is the one thing that any new Imperial student in the Department of Computing should know?

Go to as many DoCSoc events as possible. They are not only great at organizing various social events, where you get free food and meet new people, but they also have a lot of sponsors who can fast track your application and land you a job or an internship in a good company. Also exercise: a lot of people tend to ignore this one when they start as they are overwhelmed with social activities and meeting new people, but your body will really appreciate it.